Volunteer Spotlight: Ann and Conde McGowan

The Academy would like to congratulate volunteers Conde and Ann McGowan on their good work for Filmworks.
The Academy would like to congratulate volunteers Conde and Ann McGowan on their good work for Filmworks.

March 2016 Volunteers in the Spotlight: Ann and Conde McGowan

Ann and Conde have lived in Fresno for 38 years. They met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and moved around the Midwest for several years before finally settling down in Fresno after the birth of their daughter. Conde’s brother started a printing business in Fresno called Automated Office Systems.

Conde was busy with work, so we sat down with Ann for a conversation.

Occupation: “About 10 years ago, I retired from teaching first and second grades for about 30 years,” Ann says. “I decided to do things in the arts, because when I was teaching I took a class called discipline-based art education and I got very involved in the arts, teaching the arts to children. And so I got more involved teaching arts in the community.”

“First I volunteered at the Fresno Arts Council, and then I volunteered at the All Things Fresno shop, and while I was working there a group called Valley Cultural Coalition asked me to start doing some of their paperwork and help them with their membership and things like that, and eventually I became the executive director for Valley Cultural Coalition. While I was working there I became aware of all the different arts groups in town and it’s interesting how they are all participating and working together and yet so few people know about them.”

How did you hear about Filmworks? “For Valley Cultural Coalition, I started doing a newsletter that is sent out every week that promotes all the different activities that are going on in town, and one of those activities that I found out about was Fresno Filmworks.”

What do you like to do outside of work? Ann is a world traveler, and she has fallen in love with the arts over the years. Her love came first, followed closely after by Conde — who, Ann says, took a little bit more convincing.

“We both have been on this journey together,” she says. “When I first took that class and got so interested in the arts, it was the same time that my son had gone over to England to spend a semester in Europe. So he was saying I should go to Europe to see all this wonderful art, so we started traveling. At that time it was so much cheaper to travel. It was amazing.”

“So, we’d go over there and experience that, and it got my husband interested in the arts. Then as time went on, we got involved in more and more things — theater in town, concerts in town, and now he’s on the board at Arte Américas. So he has gone from someone who really didn’t have much of an interest in arts to someone who is extremely involved.”

What are some other ways that you are involved in giving back to the community? “Conde has done a project for the Valley Cultural Coalition, which has about 80 members. They’re theater groups, musical groups, etcetera, from Madera to Visalia. The groups that are interested can get a free copier from AOS and all they pay is a copier fee. That’s something that he can offer to the nonprofits, to help with some of their printing costs.”

What is your typical volunteer job at Filmworks, and what do you like most about it? “We’ve done tickets a few times, so that’s kind of our go-to position. Then one time recently my husband was in charge of popcorn, which was really hysterically funny. You wouldn’t think there’s that much to making popcorn, having the right amount and stopping when you need to stop so you don’t have extra. It was pretty funny.”

“It’s just fun being there and being a part of the community. It’s just so nice to be able to give back, and to help the groups that are doing so much.”

What’s the most unusual volunteer experience you’ve had with Filmworks?“I’d say probably the popcorn experience,” Ann says. “We had to have Andy Julian come rescue us, because he really is the popcorn man. He doesn’t get enough recognition for doing it correctly, and it’s so important.”

What are some of your favorite films? “I’m always surprised because I’m not that much of a film critic. I don’t know that much about film. My son is much more knowledgeable. He’s always referring us to these strange films you would never hear about otherwise. But that’s the fun thing about Filmworks. Every time we’ve gone, we walk out of that theater going ‘Oh my gosh!’ every time, because they make you think, and that’s what I love about going to those types of films.”

“Sometimes we’ll walk out not understanding at all what the point of the film was, but then it makes you think still. Maybe this was the idea, or maybe they just wanted to upset you enough to make you wonder. I really enjoy the opportunity to broaden my horizons and think about things in a new way.”

What’s your favorite film that you’ve seen with Filmworks at the Tower Theatre? “I don’t have a favorite in particular,” Ann says, “but the Oscar-Nominated Short Films this last time were so intense. I was so emotionally touched by those films, and then I was so disappointed by the ones that won the Academy Award.”

What’s in your Netflix queue right now that you would recommend? Although Ann says she has grown to love the arts and film as well, she hasn’t been to a theater to see a film outside of Fresno Filmworks since as long as she can remember — but Netflix is a different story.

“I just saw “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” Ann says. “It was Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday. It was an amazing movie. I wish I could’ve seen her on stage doing that. I think that was her seventh award for her performance. It was almost hard to watch it, and then to hear that Holiday died four months after the performance. She was just on the Colbert show talking about playing that role, and all of a sudden it flashed on her that Billie talked like her grandma, and when she thought about her grandma it helped her get into the voice, singing the way Billie did. That lady is amazing. I can’t even imagine how you could change your voice so radically like that. I was in awe of her performance.”

What draws you to movies and keeps you coming back? “I like stories. I don’t like adventures or those stupid comedies. I like a drama. Something that gets me involved in the interactions with people. That’s the type of film I enjoy. I guess that’s why I liked those Oscar shorts so much, because you get so involved with those characters in such a short amount of time.”

Filmworks thanks all of our March 2016 volunteers: Chris Austin, Richard Flores, Megan Ginise, Satch Gonzales, Linda Hernandez, Andy Julian, Kristie Leyba, Richard Markley, Monica Marks, Ann McGowan, Conde McGowan, Steve Ohanesian, Andrew Ranta, Gene Richards, Justin Secor, Suzanne Watkins.

To meet our past volunteers in the spotlight, and to find out how you can volunteer with Filmworks, visit our volunteer page.